It took a few days for the details to trickle out, possibly because German authorities were eager to keep them quiet, but this is officially international news now that the BBC and New York Times have picked it up. According to Cologne police, upwards of 60 women have filed complaints that they were attacked in or around the city’s central train station on New Year’s Eve by dozens of men of “North African or Arabic” appearance. Not all of the assaults were sexual but many were; one of them, according to the local police chief, qualifies as rape under the law. It’s a big enough deal in Germany that Angela Merkel had to phone the mayor of Cologne this morning to express her “outrage over these disgusting attacks and sexual assaults.” The possibility of a (failed) cover-up by authorities in the name of racial harmony recalls the infamous Rotherham sex abuse cover-up in the UK (which lasted years, it should be noted, not just one evening). The idea of sexual assaults happening out in the open in a mass gathering place recalls what Lara Logan went through when she was attacked in Tahrir Square in 2011.
German officials are quick to say there’s no evidence so far that any of the perps are newly arrived refugees — on the contrary, at least some of the attackers are reportedly familiar to local cops — but that’s missing the point. The refugee backlash isn’t being driven by fear that newcomers will prove uniquely unassimilable by European countries; the fear is that European countries have already failed to assimilate many Muslims who aren’t newcomers. If the Cologne attackers are Germans born and raised, the question will be asked: If Merkel’s Germany couldn’t inculcate respect for women in them, why would they think they’ll do any better with newcomers? How many people, citizens or otherwise, need remedial training in their official state-sponsored “rape is wrong” class? From the Times:
The Cologne police say they believe several hundred men, ages 15 to 35, were involved in the violence that began in the early hours of the New Year, after the square was cleared because men had been throwing firecrackers into the crowd.
Wolfgang Albers, Cologne’s chief of police, said the assaults had taken place in the chaos that followed, as the squared was emptied. The men appeared to have broken into smaller groups, the police said, with each one encircling a woman; while some would grope the victim, others would steal her wallet or cellphone…
In an effort to prevent further violence, Ms. Reker said that city officials would begin working on measures to help young women protect themselves and to explain the city’s attitudes and norms to its many newcomers.
More from the BBC:
What is particularly disturbing is that the attacks appear to have been organised. Around 1,000 young men arrived in large groups, seemingly with the specific intention of carrying out attacks on women.
Police in Hamburg are now reporting similar incidents on New Year’s Eve in the party area of St Pauli. One politician says this is just the tip of the iceberg…
A British woman visiting Cologne said fireworks had been thrown at her group by men who spoke neither German nor English. “They were trying to hug us, kiss us. One man stole my friend’s bag,” she told the BBC. “Another tried to get us into his ‘private taxi’. I’ve been in scary and even life-threatening situations and I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
One German paper claims that fully a third of the 60 criminal complaints filed allege sexual assaults specifically. The “fireworks” mentioned in the last excerpt appear to have been calculated too as “a means of causing distraction” while theft and assaults on women took place. This wasn’t, in other words, drunken louts getting grabby as the evening wore on; as noted above, there appears to have been a measure of planning. Merkel and her deputies can insist as much as they like that this can and should have no bearing on refugee policy, but there’s a reason why even the NYT is interested in this story. Europe’s doors are already starting to close. “We’re willing to do more than anyone else,” Sweden’s migration minister said a few days ago. “But even we have our limits.”
Oh, by the way: Despite several hundred men allegedly having participated in the attacks, the police have no leads as of this afternoon. How that squares with the detail above about some of the perps being known to police, your guess is as good as mine.